“Stay awake!” Matthew 24:42
Romans13: 11-12 “It is the hour now to awake from sleep … let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
As Advent begins it is hard to imagine anyone may have difficulty staying awake. With Thanksgiving just behind us, black Friday sales, Christmas shopping, planning, office parties, and other festive celebrations, who can be asleep? And herein lies the problem. We may be physically awake but spiritually asleep.
Advent begins on November 27 and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent means to come to. It is a time of preparation and waiting. The United Conference of Bishops explains Advent as a preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time; and to the anniversary of our Lord’s birth on Christmas.
The readings for the first Sunday of Advent call us to prepare our hearts and minds for Christ. It is a time of longing, waiting, and spiritual awakening. The four candles of Advent lit each Sunday represent four virtues. The first candle, which is purple, is hope. That is called the Prophecy Candle in memory of the prophets, especially Isaiah. The second candle also purple, is faith, often called the Bethlehem candle. This is in remembrance of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. The third candle is a pink candle, and it represents joy. It is called the Shepherd’s candle and reminds us of the joy of the birth of our Savior. The fourth Advent candle represents peace and is called the Angel’s candle, reminding us of the angel’s message; “Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.” Having an Advent wreath and lighting the candles each week is an excellent way of celebrating and to remember the significance of the season. The candles light the way as St Paul writes in Romans. We are to be the light of the world.
During Advent the challenge for us is not to just be physically awake; but to stay awake spiritually. During this season we can become so distracted and stressed that we lose sight of the true meaning of the Advent season. It is the season which has an element of penance (as evidenced by the purple candles), in the sense of preparing and disciplining our hearts for the full joy of Christmas.
As the days become colder, and darker with the winter solstice, the trees are bare, the flowers are gone, and the secular year comes to a close. It is a time for reflection, meditation, silence, and solitude. Do not neglect your prayer life or spending time alone to collect your thoughts and be with God. Prepare your heart and mind for the Lord’s coming. Celebrate the incarnation, the gift He gave us – salvation and eternal life. We must also remember He will come again. Will we be ready?